Sumo Wrestlers – Wooden Mechanical Toy

There’s a museum for pre-war mechanical toys in Nara that I spent a lot of time in when maybe I should have been looking at some famous temples. The staff there lay out a few dozen, very old toys on their tables and let you play with them for free. My favorite is a pair of sumo wrestlers, always locked in competition.

Here’s me, trying them out.

Many of these toys surprised me because they contained unanticipated motions, and asked me to approach them differently than how I remember my childhood toys, and entertained me so much when I expected them to be dull.

(This is a wind-up bell-ringer without any gears or springs; it resets with sand, like an hourglass.)

I’ve been trying a lot recently to make simpler work, and for me that involves considering artifacts like these sumo wrestlers as the bases for interactive projects. An object like this was probably the result of many iterations on the same concept; it’s unlikely that there’s a single creator to whom this toy idea can be attributed. Rather, it takes iteration, and a lot of real, physical play-testing to arrive at something that’s amusing even as it’s plain simple.